The news headlines these days are ripe to promote uncertainty about the future, leaving us filled with angst and sorrow for our suffering and the suffering of others across the world. This is a very normal response when things feel chaotic and out of control. Right now, a town is on lockdown, scared and mourning lives senselessly lost. Across the world, prominent factions are on the brink of war. Elsewhere, a war continues to rage as one country fights against invasion. Covid-19 continues to evolve, just as we're finding our way for a 'new normal' following a pandemic. Governments prioritize political agendas over governing for the greater good of their people. Global warming and deforestation are ever-present. Riots and shootings have become rampant. Wall Street numbers spike and crash daily – there is chaos all around us. Everyday. 'We are collectively grieving the loss of probable reality.' ~ Aline Marie
A natural response in these times of chaos may be to constrict, withdraw and tense against the surrounding angst. This is what we know – we sense danger, self-protect, self-preserve and then run away or defend. Retreat or fight. When the chaos isn’t directly in our backyard, it’s easier to retreat and leave the resolutions to ‘them,’ the ‘others,’ the people who are ‘responsible for that.’ This dissociation is a survival skill to protect ourselves from the reality of these tragedies. We may also feel thankful when we aren't directly facing such challenges personally. However, as a global collective, we share the impacts of events happening in anyone's backyard, in all countries, and around the world. While tempting, retreating doesn't serve to honor or support our suffering, nor the suffering of others.
What, then, is our recourse? When living in a heightened state of uncertainty, piloted by anxiety and fear, we may feel like birds being tossed around in the wind. The sense of lacking control can leave us feeling emotionally hijacked, overwhelmed and exhausted by everything happening around us. Yet, when watching birds in a strong wind, at second glance, we realize they aren't blown about at all. Instead, they are redirecting their course, flying into the wind, leaning into the natural forces, and persisting to find their course. We have this same power and can learn to persist, even in the chaos.
We don't need to feel we're at the whim of our emotions. By acknowledging our feelings of unease, we can choose to be like the bird, recognizing when we're in the storm and redirecting our course. When we do this, we challenge the feeling of chaos and shift to living mindfully, aware of how we feel and choosing how we respond. We then begin living with more intention and we learn to work with the storm, eventually finding our own place of calm. From within the calm, we can then transmute the crazed energy of the world and alternately respond with kindness and a loving heart. We develop a defensive strategy to persist, instead of retreating.
Buddhist practices call upon Tonglen in these moments of global frenzy. By breathing IN the feelings of unease, fear, anger, worry, anxiety, negativity, and then breathing OUT loving kindness, wishes for peace, positive thoughts and images of happiness and joy, we can alchemize suffering and transmute the chaos into lightness. Across the world, when humans collectively fly into the wind and refuse to allow themselves to be tossed about, we strengthen our will, and we evoke calm during times of distress. This quiet strength is a super-power we all possess; the ability to shine our light into the moments of darkness, and then electively respond with hope rather than despair.
As you engage with your personal world and relate with the affairs across the planet, know that you have the power to shift your response at any moment. We can all be brave and transform fear with love, changing the way we react and emanating calm to combat angst. Hope, faith and positivity have tremendous power to uplift with those who are unable to find calm. From ten thousand miles away, we may shift the collective mood of the world by refusing to allow dread in our hearts and actively choosing to embrace and perpetuate goodness. In your everyday life, you have this power. You may not directly win wars, you may not immediately heal the planet, but you can break the chain of negativity and fear. This is how we collectively defeat those who invoke terror, by choosing to hold faith and belief for a more positive future.
By Jennifer Rizza, Founder of Newtown Wellness Collective
Jen serves as a guide to bring greater life and energetic balance, perpetuating overall wellbeing. She is a Reiki Master, Yoga teacher and internationally-certified Integrative Health Coach.